Historically, Barnegat Bay had over 12,000 acres of eastern oyster beds. Today, nearly the entire natural oyster population is gone. With their elimination, Barnegat Bay not only lost the oysters themselves, but the ecosystem services they provided such as water filtration, wave energy mitigation, and habitat for other marine life.
Forked River Beach, in Lacey Township, NJ, is one place where the disappearance of oysters - and the reefs they build - has hit home, as high tides now bring bay water into some nearby homes. The site has lost over a hundred and fifty feet of shoreline since 1995 and erosion there has been accelerating since Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Increased sediment in water from shoreline erosion has also impacted the water quality of Barnegat Bay.
A coalition led by the American Littoral Society began work in 2021 to restore Forked River Beach by constructing reefs using large wire baskets called HESCOs. Those baskets will eventually become home to full grown oysters that will help to stabilize the shoreline and clean surrounding waters. It’s an effort the local community has rallied around.
Project partners and funders include: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, Lacey Township, Bayside Beach Club, Stockton University, Albert Marine, US Fish & Wildlife Service, ReClam the Bay, Parsons Seafood, and Wildlife Restoration Partnerships.